For anyone that’s ever set up a docking solution, you know how cumbersome it can be. After placing the dock and running power and data wires, you then have to sit down and hope driver installation goes well before you get your glorious display up and running.
Silicon Motion, mostly known for its work with SSDs, has been working behind the scenes to build a docking platform that doesn’t need all of the additional setup. Accell is one of the first vendors to deploy this technology, known as Silicon Motion InstantView.
Thanks to the awesome folks over at Accell, I have been sent one of their new Driver-Less USB-C 4K Docking Stations to play around with and review.
The Accell Driver-Less Dock is a USB-C solution offering a 10Gbps interface for connecting multiple monitors and additional storage and network connectivity via rear-mounted USB-A ports and RJ45 ports. Monitors can be connected to the built-in HDMI ports, which are labeled for resolution – one supporting 1080p and the other 4K.
The MSRP of the Accell Driver-Less Dock comes in at $189.99 with a one year warranty.
Today, I’ll be reviewing the Accell Driver-Less USB-C 4K Docking Station (Model: K31G2-001B). This is designed to be a catch-all docking station that will work with the vast majority of machines. Essentially, if it can connect via USB Type-C, you can use it with this docking station.
The Accell Driver-Less USB-C 4K Docking Station is an understated, compact device with a wedge-shaped design. The front end is blunt and rounded, with smooth edges that are easy on the eyes. The back is a bit fatter, and flares open to provide space for the input and output ports. The bulk of the construction is a slate grey ABS plastic, without any fancy decorations. The one exception is an Accell logo towards the back of the top. Even there, the logo is printed in light grey, not black, so it’s very understated. The edges are framed with silver-grey aluminum, which provides some reinforcement and a touch of class.
The overall size of the unit is 11 inches wide, 3.8 inches deep, and 0.9 inches thick. This thickness is the widest point, at the back of the unit. When it comes to weight, you’re looking at a total of 15.2 ounces. This is less than a pound, making the Accell docking station very lightweight. You can carry it in your backpack or laptop bag and barely even notice its there. And with all the smooth edges, you don’t have to worry about it damaging your other devices. It’s not tough enough to get smashed up, but it can hold its own in a crowded bag. And the rest of your gear is going to be safe.
On the back of the Accell docking station, you’ll find all the input ports. To begin with, there’s a row of three USB Type-A ports. These ports are designed with bright blue inner tabs, which offer plenty of visibility. They also offer another benefit. Because they’re easy to see, you can tell which way to orient the USB plugs as you insert them. This eliminates a lot of frustration that can come from trying to plug in old-school USB cables. Next, there’s a pair of HDMI ports for connecting monitors. The first is for a 1080p connection, while the second supports 4K video. Moving on down the line, there’s a Gigabit Ethernet cable. Finally, there’s a pair of 3.5mm audio jacks, and the 5-volt DC power input.
The USB Type-C port for connecting your device is located on the right side of the docking station. This makes it easy to access when you’re plugging in and unplugging. You don’t have to reach around the back of the unit. Along with the docking station itself, you also get a pair of cables. One is a USB Type-C to Type-C, while the other is USB Type-C to Type-A. Both are 3.3 feet in length, and both are male to male. This makes it easy to connect just about any device, from smartphones to USB laptops, and everything in-between.
Setup And Use
Setting up the Accell Driver-Less USB-C 4K Docking Station is easy for most systems. Simply plug it in, connect your peripherals, and you’re ready to go. You can connect virtually any device to the USB Type-C port, and your peripherals will automatically work. That said, there are a couple of caveats to this.
First off, the Accell docking station is advertised as “Driver-Less”. Technically, this is true. But without installing drivers, displays will only mirror what’s shown on your device. This is fine for word processing or giving presentations. But for some applications, you’re going to want an extended display. In the InstantView UI, there’s a button “optional driver installation” for 1-click driver install. It saves time for users who want to use an extended display, and don’t need to download the driver manually. In Windows 10, the 1-click driver installation can be completed in ~15 seconds.
The other limitation is the power supply. The Accell docking station is limited to 5 volts at 3 amps, which works out to 18 watts. As a result, it’s not sufficient for powering your devices. This is problematic, since it means your laptop battery will drain while you’re using it. It also means you can’t use USB external hard drives that depend on USB power. That said, 18 watts is good enough for powering smartphones while they’re in use. And as long as your external hard drive has a dedicated power supply, you won’t have any issues.
In addition, the power supply offers an additional benefit: it’s international. It supports 110-volt and 240-volt power, which means you can use it just about anywhere. Regardless of the amount of power delivered, the power supply will automatically convert it to 5 volts at 3 amps. If you do much travelling internationally this will be something you absolutely enjoy.
Not only that, but the kit includes three different power adapters. There’s a Type A adapter for North America and Japan, and a Type C adapter for Europe and South America. There’s even a Type G adapter for the UK, Ireland, and Singapore. If you’re traveling elsewhere in the world, you’ll need to provide your own adapter. Regardless of what kind of adapter you purchase, it will always deliver the right amount of power.
When it comes to monitors, you can display in 1080p or 4K, depending on which port you use. This comes with a limitation, though. If you’re using two or more displays, you can only display each of the monitors in 1080p. However, if you’re only using a single display, you can take advantage of full 4K. In practice, this is only going to be an issue with laptops. There are currently no mobile phones that support 4K resolution at this time.
The Accell Driver-Less USB-C 4K Docking Station is compatible with the vast majority of electronic devices. It works with Windows, MacOS, and Android devices, which more or less runs the gamut. Connect your laptop, your smartphone, or even your tablet, and you’re good to go.
Moreover, Android owners can actually use an extended screen if they so desire. You’ll have to jump through a few hoops, though, so let’s walk through the process. First off, you’ll need to download and install the Accell Driver-Less app from Google Play. Next, you’ll need to use the app to configure your display options as desired. This isn’t just essential for using an extended screen. On some Android devices, it’s actually essential to using the Accell docking station to begin with. As a rule of thumb, you should probably install it on any Android device to ensure ease of use.
As stated early on, the current price for the Accell Driver-Less 4K Docking Station is a bit pricey at $189.99, but for what it does and since it’s considered new technology, the price is very fair. I expected this to start at $249 – $299 when my rep first told me about it.
If you’re looking to mirror your display from a small screen to something larger, this device is exactly what you need and will get you up and running in literally seconds. Something that’s unheard of and yet still pretty unexpected.
There’s a lot of mobile gamers out there that would love an easy way to put their game up on their big 55-inch TV, and the Accell Driver-Less 4K Docking Station allows them to do just that and enjoy their games in a much better fashion.